Monday, August 26

Parenthood and Games Design

This Friday just gone marks a year to the day since The Wife and I passed our genes on to future generations (it was The Daughter's first birthday :) ). The last year has been a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work. The Daughter is in every way awesome (said like a true parent). There's nothing as cool as being able to say: 'Give Daddy a cuddle' and feel her tiny little arms reach round your shoulders, her head rest on your shoulder and then her give you a squeeze!

When it comes to sleep however, The Daughter still has some skills to learn. Some babies apparently sleep. We've some friends whose daughter has slept through the night since she was eight weeks old. The Daughter, on the other hand, has only slept through twice in her first year, and both of those were in the last couple of weeks. Why do I bring this up? I've decided to make this week's blog post about fitting designing games around life as a new parent.

As many of you know I started designing games in 2004, I started publishing them in 2006, I quit my day job in 2008, went back into full-time work in 2010 and shut Reiver Games down in 2011. When it comes to designing and playtesting games, I have some experience: I've sold 8,500 of them. Parenthood however was new to me. All my friends with kids told me it was life-changing, and I expected that. Your child becomes the most important thing in your life (as they should!) and you want to spend your time very differently. During The Daughter's waking hours we spend our time entertaining and playing with her, plus feeding, changing and bathing her. I had imagined, before she arrived, that once she had gone to bed I would have my evenings much as before: to spend hanging out with The Wife or working on Codename: Vacuum. As such, I had expected that I would make pretty good progress on Vacuum this year.

That's not quite how it's turned out! A year of getting woken a few times during the night, coupled with frequent early starts, means that early nights are a survival strategy. As such, I have limited time in the evenings, and I've chosen to prioritise regular blogging (to try to build up an audience here) over working on Vacuum - hence letting the rule book re-writing slip from April till the end of August!

Now that she is starting to sleep better, The Wife and I have started to get out a bit more. Games Night has been running the vast majority of weeks since three weeks after she was born, but other than that, we've not been out much. Now that we're getting more rest, I've been trying to make it along to Newcastle Gamers a bit more often and we've set up the Newcastle branch of Playtest UK. I imagine, that over the next couple of years, as The Daughter starts running around she'll sleep better, and so will we - and as a result I'll get more time in the evenings. A few years after that my evenings will be running her to Brownies and Guides, music, sport and dance lessons (plus Tae Kwon Do!), and then a few years after that I'll have long evenings to fill with games design, while I wait by the phone for the call asking me to pick her up from the pub!

I'm loving being a dad, it's great fun - watching The Daughter change from a baby to a little person with a personality of her own is an amazing experience. It gives you a new appreciation for your own parents (I'm one of four - I've no idea how my parents survived!). I love games design too, but some things are more important :).

In other news, it was my quarterly trip to the hospital in Sheffield this week, so I had a couple of hours on the train to work on the rulebook re-write. I'd have had another two on the way back too, had I not bumped into my parents on their way up to visit us. I've also been trying out the new rules at work in my lunch break. The changes I'd made to speed the game up worked, in that we played a two-player game in under 35 minutes (about 17 minutes per player, close to my target of 15 minutes per player). However, Dave whom I played it with wasn't enamoured of new rules. He's a massive fan of Vacuum usually, and very excited with it too, but he found the game too short to be satisfying. In the game I had to react to a strategy he'd chosen, change my plans and then race to end the game before he could crush me utterly. I succeeded, and won, but he felt the shorter play time meant that several of the strategies might not have time to really get going. He wants to get a few more plays in with the new rules to get a bigger sample size - but on first blush, he preferred the longer game.


Mal said...

N=1 for the reaction to the new rules, mind. Break it out at games night sometime and see how it goes. That and the PlaytestUK sessions, of course.

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya Mal,

Yes, as a scientist, Dave wanted to get more technical replicates, but also was keen to see the results from more biological replicates too!